Sea of Sameness: Latin America

Updated: Nov 30, 2020



In this series about the Sea of Sameness in Corporate and Employer Branding, we explore how this plays out in Latin America.


Welcome our Special Guest, Gabriela Torres.


Listen to the podcast here.


Connect with Gabriella via LinkedIn here.



HEATHER: Hello, Welcome to HeatherP Solutions, POV podcast series. This is the fourth episode where we will be discussing the implications of the sea of sameness, but hold on your seat belts .... this time in Latin America and how it relates to American companies. This episode is based on research done with big companies in Ecuador, Chile, Mexico, and Brazil. Is there a sea of sameness in Latin America? And is it similar to the one in the United States? I'm Heather P and I'm here with my guest, Gabriela Torres. Gabriela is a corporate communications and digital marketing professional, and she started working in employer branding fairly recently and is currently working to showcase its importance and impact to both local and global organizations in Ecuador, as well as other markets in Latin America, through content creation and a company's internal and external audiences. Welcome Gabriela.


GABRIELA: Heather, thanks for having me on the podcast.


HEATHER: I'm really excited. I am so excited to have you on this. So in our last episode, um, we covered the sea of sameness and the implications for employee experience this time, we'll also be talking about COVID-19 and how it's being portrayed on career websites in the U S and Latin America. The industries we analyzed are consumer foods, finance and healthcare, and here in the U S in those industries, COVID is a primary message on the homepage of most of the corporate websites. Additionally, it is a frequent topic in social media posts, though, less so than what we saw a few months ago in Edelman's trust factor report. We see the expectations of consumers with brands to do the right thing, to put people over profits and maintain a high level of trust, all important aspects for brands to consider in these industries and reminder those industries, consumer foods, finance, and healthcare.

Additionally, we see that consumers are trusting brands more than they're trusting or government officials, which is both a big responsibility and a big opportunity for brands when it comes to communicating about COVID. So I'm curious, Gabriela, what can you share about COVID communications from big brands and LATAM?


GABRIELA: Thanks, Heather for that introduction. I can say that what we found out in our research from the country from Latin America, that we analyzed is that COVID and COVID related topics are not being communicated properly first on an employer brand level through career sites, or even on a corporate brand Level in their main websites or talking about it or mentioning it at all. And while around 50% of them do mention it, I think only 25% provide consistent and strategic information for their stakeholders.


HEATHER: And let's remember, these are big companies, not your regular medium or small businesses. So this is a bit alarming.


GABRIELA: Yeah. Not a single company of these ones mentioned the impact of COVIDT in hiring or recruitment. And when employees are mentioned is in relation to how the client or consumer could be affected. Finally, some countries are truly affected by the situation and the communication level people would be expecting from them, from the companies as candidates, or even as consumers are not being met properly at all. In my opinion.


HEATHER: Yeah, that is so interesting. Now, to put this in perspective, you gathered this data up until the end of June of this year. So we're talking about a pretty hefty amount of time where companies since March had time to prepare and come up with a communication strategy that was more solid than, than what you're saying.


GABRIELA: Absolutely. Maybe since we're a long way from this to be over, there's still a chance for them to turn this around. Hopefully.


HEATHER: Yeah, totally good Call out. You're correct. It's never too late. Now. Let's dive into our main topic about the sea of sameness. Now, as a refresher, In the US, we are seeing a sea of sameness by industry in the fortune 500 where the same key themes are being called out and leading to muddy distinctions between brands, both corporate brands and employer brands within an industry of the fortune 500. So we're curious, is this a US thing or a broader, more global trend in the sea of sameness? So Gabriela what's happening in Latin America, as it relates to the sea of sameness in employer and corporate branding,


GABRIELA: I think similar to the U S between industries, you can't differentiate one company from another, but what is actually worse in Latin America, you cannot differentiate a company from one industry to another that belongs to a totally different industry. Many of the topics and even tone and nuances used for communications by these companies are so similar that almost none of them stand out at all. Also for some organizations, a lot of the time, the information is so standard and broad that you can distinguish what the business does, what its focuses or how employees can support that vision among other things.


HEATHER: Wow, how confusing for both customers and talent. Now you even found examples, large holding companies, own businesses across sectors. And while the businesses may have websites to communicate the specific information related to that business, the holding company aren't really leveraging the opportunity to showcase individual companies or their strengths. And also most of the companies are focusing on talking about their organizational capabilities, which let's face. It are impressive because they all are big companies, but not about what makes them unique or has them stand out from the others. How could talent really discern the values, culture, or work experience to be able to make informed choices about where to create their next step in their career?


GABRIELA: I think what you're mentioning is the main problem in the region, collaborating, reading most websites as a candidate, or even as a consumer of that specific, those specific brands, you don't really learn anything new or stay with anything relevant information from these brands or these corporate brands or employer brands there's no differentiation at all.


HEATHER: Yeah. We noticed that as well. For example, statements like we're the best. It was used 80% of the time by companies, although they don't specify the best in which area or how they reached that conclusion. So apparently they're the best in either absolutely everything or nothing they're going to tell us about, but that doesn't tell people anything of value, really, whether it's for the consumer or the employer brands.


GABRIELA: Yes. I agree with that, especially for employer brands. What surprised me is that these companies in Latin America belong to big us companies that have really strong employer brands in the U S but this reality doesn't reflect in Latin American countries, the core messages of the brand fade away and everything from design to information is not presented properly. And consequently, we can assume that they don't have candidates in their minds while they're building their career websites in Latin America.


And what we saw in these career sites is a lot of general information focused on telling people how great the company is the best though, not in what and what they want from candidates, rather than telling them what makes the organization a good employer, what kind of people they need, or even focusing on what the candidate wants to know. And that's when there is information there, because most of the time we just find a list of available rules, a form, or a contact email, and nothing more. And that brings us to the next call-out. We found a lot of opportunities for improvement, where US-based global companies were operating Latin America and, um, opportunities they're making with respect to their employer brands.


HEATHER: What are some of the biggest opportunities that you saw?


GABRIELA: The majority of companies redirect a candidate at some point to the U S global career page of the company, which would not be totally bad if they didn't have all the information in English? I would believe for that for some roles speaking fluent English is absolutely necessary, but not for most of them. And therefore candidates won't have the capacity to read and understand truly the information.


Even if people understand what they're being presented with, there's no relevant information on the country and the context they be working in the specifics of each market of the roles, et cetera.


The second opportunity for me is the lack of information we find or not find really this happens across Latin American companies, but it's surprising that it happens with US companies. What I'm referring to is that career pages are only either a list of jobs or a third party ATS, which also has job listings. And it's really surprising because these companies have strong career websites with valuable information for US markets, but that doesn’t happen with their career websites in other regions, which is, uh, an opportunity that they're missing there. And finally, last but not least, some of these pages that do have information in the local language have some really basic Spanish mistakes, grammatical, structural, et cetera, some sentences even sound funny, and this can make candidates feel a little bit disrespected since no one took the time to check that these communications were clear,


HEATHER: And that is such a simple thing to fix, right? And it doesn't even have to be done by an employer, branding professional, any native speaker could help out and be solved super quickly. And I believe Gabriela, when you looked into it, you found that the driver of this issue was most often related to ownership of the career website or the process that it often doesn't lie with an employer branding professional or even HR person. So it just might not get the attention and prioritization that it warrants. That brings me to my next question. Now, my understanding and correct me if I'm wrong, Gabriela, is that, the US might be a little bit more mature in its practice of employer branding. Would you agree with that statement?


GABRIELA: Yes, absolutely. I think, um, the US and other European countries for example, are way more developed than Latin America in terms of employer branding. I mean, many, many years ahead.


HEATHER: Okay. All right. Well, I didn't want to assume, so thank you for that. So given this, when it comes to employer branding, what is the current state of employer branding in Latin America and their approach of communicating with candidates?


GABRIELA: Really interesting question, because professionally, I feel there's a lot we could do to make the candidate experience better across all the region or the region. But I also know there's limitations for companies when it comes to budget, resources, experience and knowledge in employer branding, but there are a few things that could be fixed easily. And I will mention them really quickly.


First, a lot of companies don't have a career website or even a single career page. This could be for many reasons, including the use of external headhunters or recruitment agencies to get them candidates. But if people were to be interested in the company, they can only get in touch through a generic information email. Also they want to attract talent or showcase what they offer, meaning their EVP there's nowhere to do it.


HEATHER: Wow.


GABRIELA: Yeah. Second, the companies that do have careers sites have a lack of information regarding employment and careers in general. Most of them are single pages with generic paragraphs explaining how great they are with nothing specific relating to the company or to the experience that you offered to employees or candidates for that matter.

If they do have more pages, we find the same generic information with stock images and may say nothing relevant or nothing that stands out at all. We also find broken links all over, starting with links to LinkedIn pages too, or to internal pages or even job postings that don't work, which is awful. And this makes the experience a little difficult for candidates. And I bet people will drop off the pages as they would do with any other website that's not properly working.


And finally think there's a missed opportunity to target young talent. A few companies do that, but most of them don't mention internships, traineeships, or graduate hiring programs at all. As a region that is in need of talent, developing people since they started their career will be a competitive advantage of any company is against others in the industry and each country in general.


HEATHER: That's really interesting because some of the items that you're mentioning do not have to involve a lot of time or money to fix. So for example, like building your career website, there's plenty of super inexpensive options like Wix and Squarespace and Go Daddy that can build really inexpensive websites that would provide, you know, just basic information and could be easily controlled by someone with very minimal training locally, or typically just doing a landing page off of an existing website is free and fast. And I don't know if you're seeing this in Latin America, but we're seeing small businesses now have even skipped a website entirely for Facebook page because it's free. Um, and even on a Facebook page, you could provide basic information there to have something, which is better than nothing, right?


GABRIELA: Yeah, that's totally true.


HEATHER: As far as like local information that candidates want. I just, I tell this to my small and mid sized businesses here in the U S all the time, a mobile phone is a great solution for taking photos at a local company event, or capturing a quick video with a few employees sharing what it's like to work there, or having an event at lunch where you capture 30 SECOND videos of various people in various roles at the company talking about why they joined and why they stay. There's so many free video and photo editing platforms on a phone that will turn out decent content for low cost and low time. And quite frankly, candidates actually prefer this kind of content. It's more authentic versus the high production, highly scripted stuff.


And then, you know, testing, testing, testing. When you mentioned all those broken links, it doesn't involve a lot of time or money.It's really about walking in the shoes of candidate and walking through the experience as they would. Really any recruiting team should regularly walk through their entire process as though they're a candidate to understand what the experience is and to find exactly what you found, where links are broken or missing, or they don't make sense. You know, if you spent two hours, every three months to review the candidate experience, it highlights a lot of easy fixes.


And then lastly, the young talent, if a company has a program for those in the early stages of the career, it's merely about sharing the information and taking us back to having a career page. If a company does not yet have that program, then that's an opportunity to look brilliant to management by suggesting it. So I don't mean to digress. It was important to emphasize that most of what you're seeing is easily addressed locally with very little time and money. So tell me, Gabriela, are these things found in all three of the industries you looked at, or what are some of the nuances that you found by, by industry starting? Let's start with healthcare


GABRIELA: For Healthcare, If I didn't know they were healthcare companies, they would be doing anything else and nobody would notice that's the kind of information they have up there. That's not ideal for any industry, but especially for one focus on something so important to humans. In this industry, there's a lot of groups and holdings, which makes it confusing to search for information as a candidate, because nothing is clearly defined or has enough information to stand on its own. And I think that that's an issue. Most of the companies live under a corporate website that mixes everything and says many of these companies belong to bigger holdings, the same issues. You've seen one, you've seen all of the others they're doing copy and paste or their websites, and also most career pages in this industry link straight to the job listings, ATSs or US career pages, if it belongs to a US company. Finally, I would say, when it comes to design, most pages look like it's a year 2000, with ton of texts that doesn't really say anything. It's not exciting or attracting to, to anyone.


HEATHER: Wow. And it makes me wonder if they're even mobile friendly at that point, right? It takes me back to what we were just talking about easy, fast, and low cost suggestions around a career site or a landing page. They're not insurmountable challenges to make, you know, basic information about a critical industry, to make that information available to candidates. What, what did you find in finance?


GABRIELA: In finance, We found tons of standard information in the majority of companies and also a lot of old information in many of their websites. There's so much bland information that nothing stands out, not even the topic of digitalization that it's so important to this industry, which I need to say, it's barely mentioned. There are many holdings or groups as well in this industry. And they're missing opportunities to leverage their communication capabilities with pages that don't give out much relevant information or much information at all, really. And finally, when culture is mentioned in this industry, they say, it's great, but they don't say why. And some of these career pages have outlined the selection process, which could be taken as a good practice, but I think it could be built in a better way to make it more user-friendly.


HEATHER: Yeah. Yeah. You know, I, I couldn't help it just think, imagine if we all showed up for job interviews and just said, we're great, but we didn't explain why? So I'm hearing in what you're sharing about the financial industry, some refinement and updating of content needed. And again, it's just like pulling out those mobile phones to take local pictures and videos to add a little more context and the voice of the employee to the information that you talked about to make it also a little less boring. Again, easy and inexpensive ways to improve the information available to candidates. So what about consumer foods?


GABRIELA: I think consumer foods is more dynamic than the others. Finally, both on the corporate and employer brand level. this is the industry that has the best performance in all countries in general. What surprises me is that big brand names have really bad websites, something you wouldn't expect from them as a consumer or a candidate, because these are well well-known companies. Beyond that, we found more diversity in the information of this industry than the others. Although, one thing that is repeated a lot is the “think like owners” model. The purpose of these companies is addressed as well, but it's generic in most companies. And there is no relevant information that exemplifies what they're trying to convey. And also in this industry, there's something we didn't see as much in the other industries. And that is a mention of creating value for shareholders. And finally, similarly, as in finance, some organization, explain how the selection process works, but on a very, very basic level.


HEATHER: Yeah, so it sounds like an opportunity again, for the employer brand and recruiting leaders to walk through the experience as though they're a candidate to see what is best to address. Again, it doesn't have to be time consuming or expensive to make really meaningful improvements. I'm thinking about, you know, we've been talking about sea of sameness and there's a sea of sameness, but there's also like a a sea of nothingness. Um, but better in the consumer foods. What do we see as far as countries generalizations is concerned? Is there any countries that stand out against others as being more positive in the employer, brand space or more negative?


GABRIELA: Well, there's a lot to be said there personally. I can say that from my professional experience in comms and marketing, I didn't expect countries like Mexico or Chile to do so poorly. That being said, I can highlight a few things.


Mexico in general, but mainly in healthcare communicates, had a lot about the organization capabilities of its companies. Like it, wasn't an unspoken rule among all of them to share this and also takes this to other companies they own across Latin America. Also, this country is the one with more standard information from all of them. It's almost as if they do copy-paste for each website.


Ecuador stands out, meaning it was the least bad one healthcare because it provided more robust information. And the design was more user-friendly. Chile had the worst career pages in healthcare, although it was a country that address COVID the most opposite to that. Chile stood out as the best in finance, based on its content and quality and testimonials these variations within each country. Really interesting to see, especially because other industries could learn from finance and start following their example.


HEATHER: Yeah. Yeah. Like Chile is already standing out in finance. At some point other industries that need to compete for some of that same talent could look to that and start following that example. It's a great call-out


GABRIELA: Yes, fingers crossed. And I say that, although there are great opportunities for employer branding in the region, they are lacking the necessary support. So that might be one of the reasons all of this is happening with support. I mean, agencies and consultants specialization in employer branding. And as you know, we made some inquiries into employer branding, branding agencies by country. In all of Brazil, there's only one agency that does that and the same in Argentina. But we were hard pressed to find more agencies specializing in employer branding or even recruitment marketing in any of the other countries.


For me, the reality is that consumer marketing agencies, for example, are too expensive for HR or employer branding budgets. They're not the best fit for these kinds of projects. And they lack the expertise needed to do employer branding as well. And so this means that even if leaders are wanting to leverage the power of their employer brands, or even execute tactical recruitment marketing, there are not many places to turn for expertise. Although we have the limitations, there are other resources outside of the region, like in the US, or people like me who could support the development and implementation of employer branding. I would really like to advance the overall practice of employer branding in the region.


HEATHER: Well, and I know you're passionate about this, Gabriela, because you reached out to me on this topic and I think it's worth, you know, for those listening to call out like, okay, maybe there's not agencies, but there are individuals who have a passion and commitment to advancing employer branding. And you are one of those individuals, you'd be a great person for a company to contact and start to have these kinds of conversations. So finally, since we're trying to find best practices, can, can you tell me what some of the best examples were that you saw?


GABRIELA: I can tell you about the only example that stood out to me, which was from Chile. One of these websites from the companies had an interactive video of how your first day would go and the new hire on the other one had a strategic and authentic employee testimonials, which really enrich the content of the website. To me, this was surprising since both of these companies belong to the finance industry, which tends to be more discreet and serious within the region. But those are great, great examples for me.


HEATHER: I love it. I love, especially that it's more of a risk adverse industry, um, like finance, understanding that investing in talent and showing and being a little more authentic about what it's like to work there, helps them get the best talent. That's awesome. Thanks for sharing that example as to where all the industries in Chile and across Latin America could evolve to. And quite frankly, where a lot of companies in the U S could have all do too.


So in summary, there's a huge opportunity for companies in Latin America, as far as how they engage and educate local talent. The solutions to this do not have to be time consuming. They don't have to be expensive. There is a lack of local expertise and where local experts like you local, you know, individuals who are passionate, um, and trained and, and interested in advancing this area come in. Um, that's where experts like you, Gabriela and myself at HeatherP Solutions can help. So Gabriela, how would a company engage you? Like how would they reach out to you if they want to talk to you about advancing their employer brand?


GABRIELA: The best way to contact me is LinkedIn. Um, I'm always there writing, um, some employer branding pieces or internal communication pieces and yeah, I'm always available and open to help companies with employer branding, employer branding is one of my passions and I would really love to see it roll within the region.


HEATHER: Great. And then, um, we will also make sure as we post and share this podcast that we link to you so that people can easily find you.


So as far as how to go about these interviews and the relevant messaging and talent actions for our listeners, that's also where HeatherP Solutions can help. We can do this with you with speed and effectiveness, and you can just reach out to us at heatherpsolutions.com, we will make sure we have a link to Gabriela's information so you can engage her.


So thanks to our listeners for joining us for the fourth in the series on the sea of sameness and how to drive competitive advantage for your business through employer branding. Join us next time. When we tackle in greater detail, how we can address the issues we just discussed today, if you're a company in Latin America or US-based company with operations in that region, this is Heather and Gabriela Torres signing off from the HeatherP Solutions, POV podcast, fourth episode, the sea of sameness in Latin America.


Thanks for listening.




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